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Iran to sue H’wood over ‘Argo’ Tehran bids to stop anti-Iranian films production

TEHRAN, March 13, (Agencies): Tehran plans to sue Hollywood production companies over anti-Iranian films, including the Oscar-winning “Argo”, a French lawyer hired by the Islamic republic to make the case said on Wednesday.
Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who arrived in Tehran at the weekend at the invitation of Iran’s culture ministry, told AFP she was seeking “legal ways to stop the production of anti-Iranian movies”.
Portrayed as an “anti-Zionist activist” in Iranian media, Coutant-Peyre defended notorious Venezuelan militant Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, alias Carlos the Jackal, who is serving a life term in France for deadly attacks in the 1980s.

“Our case is one of defamation and attacks against honour and reputation” of Iran and its people, she said, referring to movies such as “Argo,” “Not Without My Daughter,” “300,” “Wrestler” and “Unthinkable” for their anti-Iranian content.
Iran has criticised the drama “Argo” as a pro-CIA propaganda film, while assailing the 85th Academy Awards as “the most political Oscars ever” for awarding its top honour to the movie.
“Argo” recounts the long-classified CIA plot to extract from revolutionary Iran six US hostages who had managed to evade Islamist students storming the US embassy in Tehran on Nov 4, 1979. The other 52 hostages were held for 444 days in an action that caused the rupture of diplomatic ties between Washington and Tehran.

Coutant-Peyre said Argo should be condemned for what she called its “falsification of history” as “it is supposedly based on a declassified story.” She said she had watched the movie only “in part”.
She said a case could be brought before a French court, alluding to a law about the liability of an individual for damages caused to others. Swiss law also punishes defamation against states, she added.
Any trial “would allow a contradictory debate to establish the truth (about the hostage crisis) so that public opinion has more than just one side of the story,” she said. The lawyer added that Iran “does not want Argo to be banned but it wants a statement saying that the facts recounted in the movie do not correspond to reality.”

Iran’s contempt of Hollywood is no secret. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last month criticised Hollywood as a “totally political” machine that propagates policies brewed in Washington.
Iran and the United States are locked in a tense showdown over an array of issues, including Tehran’s nuclear ambitions which the West and Israel suspect are aimed at military objectives, despite Iran’s repeated denials. The lawyer told the semi-official Mehr news agency that she will start a campaign to show that Argo is a lie, while pressing to stop distribution of the movie.
“We will be able to block distributors of the movie, force them to apologize and challenge them to confess that the movie is nothing but a sheer lie,” the lawyer said.

Though the movie isn’t showing in any Iranian theaters, many Iranians have seen it on bootleg DVDs and it set off a spirited debate that exposed a generational divide. Iranians who took part in the 1979 Islamic Revolution picked apart the portrayals of Tehran at the time but those too young to recall the events were eager for a different view on what had happened.
The decision on the lawsuit came after a group of Iranian cultural officials and movie critics screened the film in a closed audience in a Tehran theater late Monday.
The gathering, titled “The Hoax of Hollywood,” discussed various legal aspects of filing a lawsuit, media reports said, without providing details. It remains unclear what specific charges Iran could raise and what court Tehran could turn to if the action goes ahead.
Those at the meeting dismissed “Argo” as a “violation of international cultural norms.” A statement issued after the gathering said that “awarding an anti-Iran movie is a propaganda attack against our nation and entire humanity.”

The statement did not clarify how the movie was allegedly unrealistic, but officials have accused “Argo” of depicting Iranians as “too violent.”
They have also said the movie’s director did not refer to other documentaries on the embassy storming or discuss reasons for the crisis, which included simmering resentment against the United States for a CIA-aided counter-coup in 1953 that toppled democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and restored the pro-Western monarchy in Iran.
This was not the first time Iran has claimed that Hollywood has pushed a distorted picture of the country.

Egyptian security agencies have stopped the screening of a documentary on the Egyptian Jewish community a day before it was due to debut in local cinemas, the film producer said in a statement Tuesday.
He said no reasons were given.
The “Jews of Egypt”, a documentary that follows the lives of the Egyptian Jewish community in the first half of the 20th century until they left under duress in large numbers in the late 1950s, was screened in Egypt last year in a private film festival and had been approved by censorship, a regular procedure in Egypt.
Film producer Haytham el-Khamissy said he heard from the chief of the censorship authority that a security agency asked to view the movie before granting it a license to be shown in theaters.
“I was shocked when he told me this and when I learned that this had already happened” before the 2012 festival screening, el-Khamissy said in a statement posted on the film’s official Facebook page.

“There is no excuse for this except delay and obstruction,” he said. “I announce the delay of the screening of ‘Jews of Egypt’ until a solution is found for this inexplicable problem, inherited from long years in the parlors of the Egyptian state securities and which aim to terrorize thought and repress creativity.”
Under the former regime of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak, security authorities kept a tight lid on discussions of religion and minority groups, occasionally banning books or rejecting movie scripts that dealt with such issues. It was not possible to reach officials for comments late Tuesday.
The film was also screened in the US. It was due to debut in three theaters in Egypt Wednesday.
The film director Amir Ramses describes it as a documentary about the cosmopolitan Egypt in the early 20th century, asking, “how did the Jews of Egypt turn in the eyes of Egyptians from partners in the same country to enemies?”

The film is based on testimonies of researchers, political figures and exiled Egyptian Jews.
Egypt’s once thriving Jewish community largely left Egypt more than 60 years ago amid hostilities between Egypt and Israel. Estimates say about 65,000 Jews left Egypt since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, most of them traveling to Europe and the West. Some settled in Israel.
Their departure was fueled by rising nationalist sentiment during the Arab-Israeli wars, harassment and some direct expulsions by then-President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, and attacks on Jewish properties.
Only scores of Jews, most of them elderly, remain in Egypt. Synagogues are heavily guarded and are mainly tourist sites now.

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